A Brief History on the Development of Chinese Infantry Portable Transceivers (Part Two)

IV. Second Generation
In early 60s, due to the development of transistor technology, the request to make the portable transceiver smaller and lighter could be materialized. The first such radio is Type Eight One Compact which means smaller version of Type Eight One. The development was started in early 60’s. Due to lack of reliable out power amplifier transistor, the receiver part was release first as 139A SW receiver in early 60s (an all silicon version of 139A was introduced later as 139B). In 1966, the new radio started to appear in PLA for trial use. Its size and weight were only half of that of Type Eight One.

The feedback from the troop was mixed. Troops welcomed this much smaller and lighter radio; however, this radio faced a list of technical problems. On top of the list was that the transistor in transmitting amplifier stag was very easy to get fried. To solve this long list of issues, manufactory had been working on improved versions for 10 years. In early 70s, The Type Eight One Compact (A) is certified. The amplifier transistor issue was still exists. Starting from March 1972, a campaign was launched included a number of manufactories and research institutes, this problem was finally resolved after 6 months of intensive R&D. Then Eight One Compact (B) was certified in May 1973. The B version is the mostly produced version in Eight One Compact series, and most of the issues are basically resolved, but not completely until Eight One Compact (C) was introduced in late 70s.

The development of transistor version of Regiment-Battalion Level transceiver was started later than that of Type Eight One Compact; however, it matured in 1969 much earlier than that of Type Eight One Compact. Unless Type Eight One Compact, it used all silicon transistors from the beginning. That is why it got a name of Silicon Two Watt. In early 1970, the production of Silicon 2 W had spread to 14 manufactories nation wide. It was finally certified by military in May 1973 as Type 73 Regiment-Battalion Level Short Wave transceiver. Unless that of Type Eight One Compact, Silicon Two Watt has only one improved version introduced in mid 70s.

7 series VHF FM backpacks were developed in late 60s to replace the heavy A series VHF FM backpacks. They are second generation VHF backpack radios developed 100% by China. They use all silicon transistors and much lighter and smaller than A series, and use much less power. However basic functionalities remain the same as A series. It has four radios, 705, 708, 709 and 714 to cover different frequency range. Development started in late 60s; production started in early 70s. They were certified by military in 1973. Improved A, B and C versions were introduced later in mid 70s.

884 VHF FM Battalion-Company level transceiver was developed in late 60s, and certified in 1972. It is the all transistor version of 883 radio. Unless other radios developed at this period, 884 radio does not have any improved version introduced during its entire service life. 884 radios were supplied to Vietcom in large quantity in early 70’s even before that of Chinese army.

In early 60s, an all transistor receiver was introduced as 239 SW receiver. It has much better sensitivity, selectivity and much wider frequency range than 139A/B receiver. A much improved all silicon transistor version was introduced in late 60 as 339 receiver. Production of 339 receiver had been continued until early 80s, and it is still widely used by HAM nowadays.

In this period, Type Eight One Compact, Silicon Two Watt transceivers plus 884, 7 series VHF FM transceivers formed the backbone of PLA infantry field portable transceivers. They were widely used by both sides of 1979 border conflict between Vietnam and China, and retired in mid 80’s.

V. In Between

All of second generation radio has one or more continuous band(s). This required a dedicated radio operator. In 1968, requirement was given for a light weighted, simple to operate artillery gunner’s radio. Wuhan Wireless Manufactory create this gunner’s radio in 1971 and samples were sent to troop for trial use. It is light weighted (less than 1kg) and channel based. This project was canceled in 1971 for political and economic reason. The development was resumed in 1973. This time, the project consists three models, Type 861 Company-Platoon Level Transceiver, Type 862 gunner’s radio and Type 823 paratrooper’s direction finding radio. They share a similar features and construction and use early type of IC chips. They all certified in 1979 and 861 radio saw large scale of operation in Sino-Vietnam boarder conflict in 80s. In this series, there are 804 receiver to be used with 861 radio and 826 receiver to be used with 823 radio. However, these two receivers did not see large scale deployment.

In early 80s, 70 series radio was developed for the infantry reconnaissance units. The series has 7011 transceiver, 7012 direction finding receiver and 7013 sub-compact transceiver. 7013 has a size of a regular cigarette pack, a range of several hundreds meters and only two channels. They also saw operation in Sino-Vietnam boarder conflict in 80s.

In this period, the radios developed have characters of light weight, channel based and crystal controlled. Some like to put these radios into third generation group, but I like to categorize these as pre-third generation. You could also add 10W crystal-control SSB to this list. Since it is tied too close to the third generation radios, I would like to introduce it in the next chapter.